I've spent half a century (yikes) writing for radio and print—mostly print. I hope to be still tapping the keys as I take my last breath.
What possesses parents to saddle their offspring with bizarre names? Do they think it’s character-building to call their child Axelgrease or Tyrannosaurus Rex? It just opens them up for ridicule at an early age and that can leave psychological scars.
Psychology professor Dr. Jean Twenge investigated the phenomenon of peculiar names and found parents saying things like “Different is good” or, “I want him to stand out.”
How Do You Spell That?
Some folk go through life constantly having to explain that their name is spelled Khrystopher, Tiphaniee, Mykel, or Jessieighkah.
If you want to fill in a boring, wet Sunday afternoon you can drill down through America’s Social Security Administration’s database. There you will find the name of every person who has a social security card. But fortunately, you don’t have to do that; there are people with the time and inclination who have completed the task for you.
One such is Lisa Milbrand. She combed through the database for Parents Magazine and found many wonders. Having dispensed with positive if strange names such as Celestial, Wise, and Happy she wrote that “There are the names that have a pretty negative connotation: Wraith, Furious, Trigger, Nemesis, Minor, Shy, and Danger. And even some alcoholic baby names: Shiraz, Chardonnay, Gin, and Syrah. Some boys were even named, Unnamed.”
And, there are approximately 350 people with the given name Abcde, pronounced AB-cidy.
Celebrity Naming Choices
The world of the rich and famous is peppered with couples who bestow outlandish monikers on their offspring.
First up we’ve got celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and his wife Jools. The most recent addition to their brood is Buddy Bear. He joins Poppy Honey, Daisy Boo Pamela, Petal Blossom Rainbow, and River Rocket Blue Dallas. Ms. Oliver is quoted as saying “I hate people’s opinions on names. Whatever you call your baby is your decision.”
Elon Musk of Tesla fame and his spouse Grimes (aka Claire Elise Boucher) no doubt concur, naming their son X Æ A-12 (pronounced Bob maybe?).
That turned out to be a whoopsie. In California, where the lad was born, given names can only use the 26 letters of the alphabet. Ever the innovators, the Musks have named the little rascal X Æ A-Xii (still pronounced Bob?).
And, Virginia Van Zanten of Vogue brings us these gems, “Cameron Diaz and Benji Madden named their little girl Raddix. Then consider rocker Frank Zappa’s (fittingly) bizarrely-bestowed children: Moon Unit, Dweezil, and Diva Thin Muffin. More recently, rapper Cardi B named her baby girl Kulture.”
The British aristocracy has made a habit of patching together family names. The BBC notes that it is “the way in which top families advertised their rich heritage and titles.”
Spare a thought for the clerk tasked with finding space on the form to register the birth of Leone Sextus Denys Oswolf Fraudatifilius Tollemache-Tollemache de Orellana Plantagenet Tollemache-Tollemache.
This venerable gentleman with the ridiculously long name was born in 1884 to a country parson and his wife, both of aristocratic lineage, in England. The clergyman is said to have been eccentric, as if there was any other kind of English country vicar.
Leone Sextus Blah Blah Blah had a sister named Mabel Helmingham Ethel Huntingtower Beatrice Blazonberrie Evangeline Vise de Lou de Orellana Plantagenet Toedmag Saxon.
Leone joined the army and died of pneumonia at the Gallipoli disaster. He was buried in the Dernancourt Communal Cemetery in France and the stone cutter who engraved his marker was saved hours of labour by simplifying his name to Captain Leone Sextus Tollemache.
The people who fuss about such matters point out that Leone etc., only had a double-barrelled name; all except the last Tollemache-Tollemache being forenames.
A genuine four-barrelled name holder was Admiral Sir Reginald Aylmer Ranfurley Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax. In 1939, he was sent to Moscow to try to persuade Communist dictator Joseph Stalin to join Britain in an alliance against Hitler’s Nazi Germany. That didn’t work.
Maybe they should have sent the quintuple-barrelled Richard Plantagenet Campbell Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, 3rd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos (below). Of course, that couldn’t be done as dear old Richard Plantagenet died in 1880.
The Law Steps In
Happily, some countries have laws that prevent parents from inflicting mockery and derision on their children.
Michael and Karolina Tomaro of Goteborg, Sweden ran into trouble with their country’s naming laws when they wanted to call their daughter Metallica, after the rock band. The government says names should not “cause discomfort for the one using it.”
The Tomaros were treading in the footsteps of the Swedish family who, in 1996, tried to register their son’s name as Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 (pronounced Albin, but that’s obvious from the spelling).
In 2016, a woman in Wales tried to register her twins as Preacher for the boy and Cyanide for the girl. The issue went to court, as if the justice system had nothing better to do, where the names were rejected.
France is another country that frowns on baby names that authorities feel work against the child’s best interests. Recent rejections include: Prince William, Babar, Nutella, and Mini Cooper.
Mexico’s Sonora State has published a list of 61 names that are “derogatory, pejorative, discriminatory, or lacking in meaning.” So, nor more registering of Burger King, Circumcision, Rambo, or Sponsorship.
Finally, here’s The New Zealand Herald: “Children have been given names such as Number 16 Bus Shelter, Violence, and Benson and Hedges (twins). But other names, including Fish and Chips, Yeah Detroit, Stallion, Twisty Poi, Keenan Got Lucy, and Sex Fruit, have been blocked by registration officials.”
Sadly, many children go unprotected from parents who think names such as Evian, Halo, and Rhythm are clever.
- CoSandra Williams of Texas gave her daughter a forename with more than 1,000 letters in it. She is known as Jamie or Jameshauwnnel.
- Parents.com lists the worst names given to children, among them are Kingmessiah, Pinches, Blaykelee, Cyncere, and Any.
- In a matter of absolutely no significance, the writer grew up in a village three miles east of where Reverend Ralph William Lyonel Tollemache-Tollemache handed out absurdly long names to his children. It has been suggested, rather cruelly, that there is something in the water in that neighbourhood.
- In 2008, Rachel Harr and Daniel Hardy were joined in holy matrimony in Maryland. Friends and family were pleased to attend the Harder Harr wedding. Other notable unions involved John Looney and Shelby Warde in Oregon, and William Best and Jennifer Lay of Kentucky.
- “Three Surnames for One Person. Too Many?” Chris Bowlby, BBC Magazine, May 8, 2009.
- “Why Parents Insist on Giving Their Babies Unusual Names.” Jean M. Twenge, Psychology Today, September 28, 2016.
- “Weird, Wacky, and Unusual Baby Names.” Lisa Milbrand, Parents, undated.
- “The Weirdest Baby Names.” Emma’s Diary, 2019.
- “Elon Musk and Grimes Have Changed their Baby's Name. A Bit.” Jack Guy, CNN, May 25, 2020.
- “The Most Unusual Celebrity Baby Names: Gravity, Pilot Inspektor, Fuschia, and More.” Virginia Van Zanten, Vogue, May 5, 2020.
- “Baby Named Metallica Rocks Sweden.” BBC News, April 4, 2007.
- “17 Baby Names that Have Been Forbidden in France.” Caroline Bologna, HuffPost, November 15, 2017.
- “Illegal Baby Names: These 61 Baby Names Are Banned in One Mexican State.” Isabelle Khoo, The Huffington Post Canada, May 4, 2015.
- “ ‘Number 16 Bus Shelter’, ‘Violence’ among Kids Registered Names.” New Zealand Herald, July 25, 2008.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2020 Rupert Taylor